Federal Wales faces role row

April 26, 1996

The University of Wales is bracing itself for a new internal wrangle over its federal role.

Heads of some of its largest and most influential constituent institutions are backing calls for another big shake-up. The last was the Rosser review just three years ago.

A paper being prepared by Brian Smith, vice chancellor of the University of Wales, Cardiff, will urge the vice chancellor's board to support devolving more powers to the constituent institutions. He favours the kind of federal model adopted by the University of London.

But University of Wales chiefs, who are reviewing central services, say this could destabilise a new system of governance which came into effect only last year.

Keith Robbins, senior vice chancellor of the university and vice chancellor of the University of Wales, Lampeter, said: "I do not think that any constituent institution will benefit from us once again gazing into one another's navels."

Professor Smith says his paper is supported by other Wales vice chancellors. "Things like the design of courses require considerable discussion between the various sections of the university. I think the University of London model, where decision-making is devolved as much as possible, has much to recommend it."

Federal heads are also uneasy about a petition from Cardiff to have its own degree-awarding powers. Cardiff argues that it should be on a par with Cardiff Institute of Higher Education and Gwent College of Higher Education, which gained degree-awarding powers last week.

Adrian Webb, vice chancellor of the University of Glamorgan, says his institution might consider joining the federal university under the right circumstances. "The more autonomy there is at the institutional level the more the original reasons for Glamorgan not being part of the university are diluted," he said.

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